As the name suggests, the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad completed on Wednesday, February 23, 1859 connected the city of Hannibal in the northeastern part of Missouri with St. Joseph in the northwestern part of the state. The two cities are the second and third largest in the state of Missouri, and the east-west route proved to be crucial for economic development and postal communication.
Map of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
On March 31, 1860, the first Pony Express mail had been dispatched from Washington and New York by a messenger on board trains to St. Joseph. Unfortunately, the messenger missed a train connection which caused him to be two hours late leaving Hannibal, Missouri. However, men of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad met the emergency with one of the most famous mail train rides in history.
The main track was cleared and all switches closed. Engineer Addison Clark highballed along for a famous "fast mail" run that was to stand as a record for 50 years, covering the 206 miles from Hannibal to St. Joseph in 4 hours, 51 minutes, an average of 40 miles an hour.
The mail for the first westbound Pony Express was carried on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad from Hannibal to St. Joseph, Missouri, on April 3, 1860. The name of the locomotive was the "Missouri."
In St. Joseph, a rider, generally believed to have been Johnny Frey, mounted a pony in the Pike's Peak stable and started westward, thereby inaugurating the Pony Express. This first relay race to the West required 10 days.
During the Civil War, this railroad also was important for troop transport and moving supplies for the Union Army. The line suffers periodic attacks by pro-Confederate bushwhackers, but it remained active throughout the Civil War.
The arrival of the railroad in St. Joseph further assured that city its role as a distribution point for the west. St. Joseph remained the westernmost point in the U.S. accessible by rail until after the Civil War. Additionally, St. Joseph’s proximity to the Missouri River added to its phenomenal growth.
The first, the prequel to the series, is titled The Bavarian Jeweler.
The other, book 3 in the Lockets & Lace series, is Otto's Offer.